(Almost) Deal-Breakers: 13 Unusual Things Buyers Could Love or Hate About Your House
Know before you show. While you may love the special features of your home, buyers might think otherwise.
It is fun and exciting to personalize your home with your own style, but going overboard with unique features may end up being a problem when you decide to put your house on the market. Whether it be trendy décor from decades ago, outdoor elements that take up a lot of space and require ongoing maintenance, or specialty rooms that only your family enjoys, these parts of your home could turn off buyers and end up costing money should you decide to fix or undo them. Here are some potential deal-breakers to keep in mind that could distract potential buyers and detract from all the positives that your home has to offer.
1. Wood Paneling
Wood paneling conjures up images of the Brady Bunch house. While this décor choice was popular in the 1960s and 1970s, it is quite outdated now and creates a dark, dreary space. Home buyers might be turned off by having to rip out or paint all the dark wood paneling once they move in, so keep this in mind before listing your home in this condition.
2. Permanent Pet Features
It is bad enough if a house smells like a pet lives there and pet hair is all over the place, but having permanent pet features can really turn a buyer away, especially if they do not have pets. Built-in pet bathing stations with a walk-in shower and hand-held showerhead take up a relatively large amount of space for something that the buyer might not need. While built-in pet ramps provide a steady incline so dogs and cats don’t have to jump, they also take up a lot of room and can get in the way. Finally, special dog doors can be an undesirable feature and security concern.
3. Outdated Décor
Although realtors always remind their clients that décor can be replaced, a home filled with outdated elements can be a real buzzkill. Some examples of outdated décor to renovate before selling include honey oak cabinets, wallpaper borders, stenciling and sponging on walls, and floral chintz wallpaper. Some light fixtures like shiny yellow brass chandeliers and dated sconces or track lighting also can make for bad first impressions.
4. Built-In Aquarium
Fish tanks are known for their calming effects, but not everyone wants to take on the responsibility of a built-in aquarium. David Ambrogio, founder of NOLA Wholesale Properties, a real estate investing company in New Orleans, commented, “These are great if you’re a fish lover, but if not, you’re probably going to want to take it out and replace it with something else. That requires time and money, and can be seen as a real hassle.”
5. Novelty Rooms
Part of the American dream is to have enough time for a hobby, and designating a room just for that interest can be appealing. However, niche spaces will be desirable only to a narrow group of buyers. Examples include home theaters, gyms, meditation rooms, wine rooms, art studios, collection display areas, and music rooms.
According to Elizabeth Dodson, co-founder of HomeZada, “Wine rooms are great for wine lovers or high-end homes, but they take up valuable space in smaller homes.” Maureen McDermut, realtor with Sotheby’s International-Montecito adds, “Typical theater rooms have a lot of fixtures that are expensive to remove in order to convert them into other spaces, and theater rooms in general aren’t really everyone’s cup of tea.”
6. Off-Putting Bathroom Features
Bathroom remodels can quickly give someone an icky feeling if they aren’t done right. For starters, wall-to-wall carpet in a bathroom is a no-no. While this was popular in the 1960s and 1970s, it is a turnoff today since it is a breeding ground for germs, mold, and mildew. Many buyers also find bidets and urinals unappealing. As Ambrogio says, “I don’t see many urinals, but when I do, I just think about how you’re only catering to 50 percent of your home buyer audience with one.”
7. Spiral or Floating Staircase
Untraditional staircases, such as a spiral or floating staircase, can be a deal-breaker for some buyers. Spiral staircases look amazing in the movies, but they aren’t practical for going up and down every day. Floating staircases, which have gained in popularity in recent years, can also be unattractive to some buyers. According to Lisa Mindus, strategic real estate advisor at Real Estate Bees, “Some pets are afraid to walk up an open staircase. The safety of open or floating staircases is up for debate, but a pet owner will not consider a home with features that pose a real [or perceived] danger to their pets.” This probably applies to children as well.
8. Personal Permanent Décor
Putting your family’s imprint on a home might feel empowering, but it can prevent potential new owners from feeling comfortable in that home. At the very least, it means they have a lot of work ahead of them to remove these permanent décor elements. These include personal touches like family crests on the front door or facade of the house, family members’ handprints adorning a wall, or murals painted of the family.
9. Converted Garage
Another common deal breaker is when a garage is converted into a livable space, such as an office, gym, den, or bedroom. “Turning a garage into anything else significantly alters vehicle and storage space,” warns Dodson. “For most buyers, a functional garage is a bigger draw than a specialty room on a lot with parking issues or no parking at all. A home without adequate parking is a potential deal-breaker, especially for a multi-vehicle family.”
10. Outdoor Water Elements
All types of outdoor water features can also quash a potential home buyer’s interest. Broker Jennifer Patchen from Opendoor said, “Water elements like ponds and fountains might be ideal elements for one owner—and potentially deter another. Given their upkeep and installation, these often pricey features might be a deal-breaker for certain buyers.” In fact, according to Opendoor’s 2023 Home Decor Report, fountains were among the least-enticing outdoor features for 27 percent of homeowner respondents. A pool or hot tub also can scare away a buyer due to safety concerns and the fact that they require a lot of upkeep, which can get expensive.
11. Fixed Sports Structures
Permanent sports areas that take up space either inside the house or in the backyard could also be problematic. “Basketball courts, sports courts [like tennis or pickleball], putting greens, and additional structures on the property could initially be fun but require maintenance and get in the way of a beautiful lawn,” noted Dodson. “We have customers that installed a golf driving room and putting green in their yard. Except for big golf enthusiasts, these features could be seen as deal-breakers, especially if the buyer perceives the listing price to be higher because of them.”
12. Bold or Eccentric Décor
Going over the top with home décor choices can certainly scare away some buyers. Too-bold choices might include color toilets, sinks, and appliances; overly ornate faucets and light fixtures (think antique gold, bronze, and brass); wild paint colors like bubble gum pink or mustard yellow; faux-historical features like turrets and twisted Versailles-style columns; and heavy curtains with wild patterns like thick stripes or animal prints.
“Any overly trendy feature with a short design lifespan can be a deal-breaker for some buyers,” mentioned Dodson. “For every aggressive design choice, you reduce the number of buyers who will ultimately be interested. Keeping your home clean with tasteful design will empower homeowners to picture their own furniture and design aesthetic.”
13. Secret Rooms
This deal-breaker is perfect for No. 13 on the list, since hidden or secret rooms and passageways are creepy and reminiscent of haunted houses. What’s lurking behind that secret door? Some people decide to design their home with a panic or safe room, but try to make it fit in with the floor plan and not stick out as an especially scary spot in the home.